United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
November 29, 1983
LUCKY STORES INC., MIDWESTERN FOOD DIVISION, D/B/A EAGLE DISCOUNT SUPERMARKETS, PLAINTIFF,
UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION, LOCAL 1540, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Lucky Stores, Inc., Midwestern Food Division, d/b/a Eagle
Discount Supermarkets ("Eagle") sued United Food and Commercial Workers
Union, Local 1540 ("Local 1540").*fn1 Eagle would have this Court vacate
or modify an arbitration award. Local 1540 has filed a cross application
to enforce the arbitration award.*fn2 For reasons set forth below,
Eagle's motion to vacate or modify is denied; Local 1540's cross
application for enforcement of the arbitrator's award is granted.
Eagle and Local 1540 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement,
which sets forth a detailed grievance and arbitration procedure.*fn3
Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, a grievance protesting
the discharge of an Eagle employee, Rosalind Gulley, was submitted to
arbitration. The arbitrator concluded that Gulley had not been discharged
for "just cause," as required by the collective bargaining agreement,*fn4
and he ordered her reinstatement. However, he found that Gulley had been
rude to a customer on June 15, 1982, and withheld one month's pay from
her. Eagle claims that the arbitrator refused to consider past incidents
of discipline received by Gulley, and that she failed to deny these
accusations against her at the hearing. Additionally, Eagle claims that
the arbitrator imposed upon it investigative and due process requirements
not contained in the collective bargaining agreement, by allegedly
holding that an employee's prior history of undenied and uncontested
offenses must be investigated and raised at disciplinary hearings. In
short, Eagle contends that the arbitrator exceeded his authority.
National labor policy favors the use of arbitration as a means of
resolving labor-management disputes. United Steel-workers of America v.
American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 80 S.Ct. 1343, 4 L.Ed.2d 1403 (1960).
Burgeoning judicial case loads also have established arbitration as a
valuable method of alternative dispute resolution. Arbitration awards
will be vacated only under specific circumstances. Arbitration Act,
9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. Thus, arbitration awards may be vacated where
arbitrators exceed their powers, 9 U.S.C. § 10(d). They also may be
modified where arbitrators render awards upon matters not submitted to
them. 9 U.S.C. § 11(b). The Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed the
limited role of courts in reviewing labor arbitration awards:
a federal court may not overrule an arbitrator's
decision simply because the court believes its own
interpretation of the contract would be the better
one. Steel-workers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp.,
363 U.S. 593, 596, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 1360 [4 L.Ed.2d
1424] (1960). When the parties include an arbitration
clause in their collective bargaining agreement,
they choose to have disputes concerning constructions
of the contract resolved by an arbitrator. Unless the
arbitral decision does not "dra[w] its essence from
the collective bargaining agreement," id., at 597, 80
S.Ct., at 1361, a court is bound to enforce the award
and is not entitled to review the merits of the
contract dispute. This remains so even when the basis
for the arbitrator's decision may be ambiguous. Id.,
at 598, 80 S.Ct., at 1361.
W.R. Grace & Co. v. Local Union 759, ___ U.S. ___, 103 S.Ct. 2177, 2182,
76 L.Ed.2d 298 (1983).
Additionally, courts are to consider whether the arbitrator's words
manifest an infidelity to the essence of the agreement. Amoco Oil Co. v.
Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, Local 7-1 Inc.,
548 F.2d 1288, 1293-94 (7th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 905, 97
S.Ct. 1697, 52 L.Ed.2d 389 (1977). The Seventh Circuit interprets the
standard set forth in Enterprise Wheel to mean that courts should disturb
arbitrator's decisions only if they are arbitrary. Mogge v. International
Association of Machinists, 454 F.2d 510, 513 (7th Cir. 1971). And an
arbitrator's award draws its essence from the collective bargaining
agreement so long as the interpretation can be rationally derived from
the agreement; the correctness of the arbitrator's reasoning and
conclusion is not relevant to a reviewing court. F.W. Woolworth Co. v.
Miscellaneous Warehousemen's Union, Local 781, 629 F.2d 1204, 1215 (7th
Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 937, 101 S.Ct. 2016, 68 S.Ct. 324
(1981). It is with these standards in mind that we turn to the instant
In concluding that there was not "just cause" for Gulley's discharge,
the arbitrator held that Eagle failed to meet its burden of proof on this
issue. The arbitrator cited past disciplinary measures taken against
Gulley, but held that the evidence offered to support these incidents
lacked probative value. As for Gulley's failure to grieve past
disciplinary measures, the arbitrator cited a provision of the collective
bargaining agreement which provides that a failure to grieve warnings
issued to employees shall not constitute an admission of their truth. We
cannot, therefore, conclude that the arbitrator's decision did not "draw
its essence from the collective bargaining agreement."
Moreover, we do not consider the arbitrator's statements concerning the
due process rights of employees to be the basis of his decision. Unlike
Eagle, we do not read the arbitrator's decision as precedent for the
proposition that prior ungrieved disciplinary measures based upon customer
accusations, undenied by the employee, cannot be used in subsequent
disciplinary hearings. Rather, we believe that the decision is based upon
the arbitrator's conclusion that Eagle failed to meet its burden of proof
that Gulley was discharged for just cause. In any event, even insofar as
an arbitrator's decision is ambiguous, we are bound to enforce it.
Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 598, 80
S.Ct. 1358, 1361, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424 (1960).
Accordingly, Eagle's motion to vacate or modify is denied; Local 1540's
motion to enforce the arbitrator's decision is granted.*fn5 It is so